The Woman Who Was A Sinner

(Luke 7:36-50)

Judgement is a harsh thing, especially when it comes from one who does not have the right to judge. Who in this world is not a sinner? Who in this world is perfect and has the right to judge another?

the woman who was a sinnerThese are the questions and issues that are posed in this event about the woman who was a sinner. Jesus shows here also that he had the authority to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” and that his approach was one of compassion, not judgement.

The Pharisees Invitation

Jesus was invited to dine with this Pharisee, and he went. While seated at the table the woman who was a sinner heard that Jesus was dining with the Pharisee and came to Jesus.

She wept at Jesus’ feet, washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. She brought a flask of expensive and fragrant ointment and anointed his feet and kissed his feet doing obeisance to the Lord.

The Pharisees Judgement of the Woman who was a Sinner

The Pharisee watched all of this unfold. He did not intervene or stop the woman but he judged both Jesus and the woman. His thoughts were, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” (Verse 39)

Can you perceive the judgement in this? This Pharisee judged the woman calling her a sinner. We do not know what she had done, but it was apparently known to the Pharisee and he was critical and judgemental of the woman. He did not recognise that regardless of what she had done in the past, she was doing a beautiful thing for the Lord, and he had essentially dismissed the woman as a lost cause because of her past. He could not see beyond the fact that she was a sinner and therefore unworthy, worthless and a lost cause.

The Pharisee Judges Jesus

This Pharisee also lacked faith. He judged Jesus saying to himself that if he were a prophet he would know this woman was a sinner. Presumably on that basis he possibly thought that Jesus should have rejected her.

It is evident that the Pharisee was justifying himself rather than seeking what was right in this situation. His opinion was clearly that you don’t have dealings with sinners and that they will somehow taint and stain the righteous.

Certainly if a person takes part in their sins they will be tainted, but how can a sinner be brought to God unless a righteous person deals with them? How could Jesus preach to the sinners without going amongst them?

The position of the Pharisee was that you should separate yourself from sinners and have little to do with them. This is both judgement and prejudice of the worst kind and Jesus showed the Pharisee the errors of his thinking.

Jesus Teaching on the Woman who was a Sinner

Jesus showed that when a person is forgiven much they love much and when they are forgiven little they love little. This is a natural human trait for a person will be much more inclined to favour and love someone who has done a great thing for them than one who does not.

Jesus put this question to the Pharisee and it is evident the Pharisee was no fool for he recognised that a person who was forgiven much would love much more than one who was forgiven little.

Jesus did not judge the woman because she was a sinner, but instead he said, “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” (Verses 48-50) She had come to Jesus looking for what good she could find. She had faith and believed in the Lord and the words he was teaching the people. She probably did not come expecting to be forgiven of her sins, but she recognised the Lord for who he was and wanted to do something good for him.

She knew she was a sinner and did not need the Pharisee or anyone else to pass judgement on her for she knew herself. It was because she was a sinner and that she recognised the goodness of Jesus that when she was in his presence she wept. She knew that she was a failure because of her sin, but in her weeping she recognised that failure and came to the Lord repentant as her attitude showed.

The Lord saw this in her and that is why her sins were forgiven. He saw the repentance and the faith this woman had, despite her history and past, and in his righteousness Jesus did not judge her but forgave her.

What this means for us

How often do we see people and look at the surface and condemn them as sinners? It is too easy to dismiss someone as a sinner when instead we could and should look deeper than the surface. Who amongst us is perfect in our own right and therefore in a position to judge and condemn? As Jesus said to those who brought to him the woman caught in adultery, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

We have been called to learn how to be like Jesus. We have been called to learn the ways of righteousness and peace, not judgement and condemnation. The power of the Lord that has been given to us is the power to build up, not to destroy and tear down. We do not have the right to judge others but instead to help them to come to the Lord. Jesus came to call the sinners, not the righteous and if we are self-righteous like the Pharisee in this teaching, we cannot do the work of the Lord for the only true righteousness comes from God.

Judgement, prejudice and bias are not of God. When you are amongst people who are yet to see the light you need to conduct yourself as Christ would have done. And when you are not amongst them, pray for them for the Lord may see fit to have mercy on them and call them to himself. Like the woman who was a sinner, we do not know the heart of other people nor how the Lord is working in their lives.

(Picture sourced from oChristian.com http://clipart.ochristian.com/)

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Healing on the Sabbath

(Mark 3:1-6)

Jesus continued to show the inflexibility of the Pharisees, especially over matters of their poor interpretation of the law. The Pharisees took an extreme legalistic approach to the law which left no room for compassion. They said that no work was to be done on the Sabbath as the law stated, but took that to extremes as well as excluding healing on the Sabbath which they defined as work.

In this scripture we see a man with a withered hand come to Jesus for healing. The approach that the Pharisees took in another version of this event, was to say that there are six other days of the week and he should come back on one of those days. Such strictness in the adoption of the law has the appearance of great piety, but in fact showed disrespect and disregard for the man who was suffering.  However Jesus showed that even the Pharisees would work on the Sabbath if it was necessary. He said that a child is circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, but this too is work and thus they break one law to keep another. (John 7:23) He also showed that if any of them had a beast that had fallen in a pit they would get it out on the Sabbath so that it would not suffer. Thus in like manner this man with the withered hand who was suffering should be permitted to be healed on the Sabbath to ease his suffering. The approach of the Pharisees was all about outward appearances, not about compassion.

Besides, who was it doing this work? Was it the Pharisees? No, this healing was the work of God. Jesus also had said in relation to the Sabbath that, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” (John 5:17) As a result of this the Pharisees sought to have him killed because they believed he not only broke the Sabbath, but in this statement made himself equal to God. Despite the miracle that he performed and the many others both before and after, they would not recognise him as the Son of God.

One of the challenges for Christianity today is around the keeping of the law. In most churches today it is still taught that Christians are bound to keep the law of God, or at least the ten commandments. But Jesus came so that we could be set free from the law and receive life. He set us free from sin and the law in his death, not so that we could sin, but so that we may receive righteousness by faith. It is clear in these sections where he teaches about the Sabbath that there was something greater than the Sabbath and indeed greater than the law at work.

The truth is that if a person is seeking righteousness by faith and finds it, they do not need the law. The law was not laid down for the righteous but for the sinners. (1 Timothy 1:9) It is those who sin who need the instruction and discipline of the law, not those who do right. If a person is doing the right thing, who will condemn them? God does not condemn us for doing what is right and the law does not condemn those who are doing what is right. But what does it mean to be doing what is right? It means to be obedient to God, and his requirement of us was not about law, but about faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus showed us that the works of God were not about the law but about faith. He said, “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28-29) This is the work of God, to have faith and believe in Jesus Christ whom he sent to be the expiation for our sins and to release us from the bondages of sin and the law.

Jesus showed in the healing on the Sabbath that it is always right to do the right thing. Which is more right, to keep the letter of the law of the Sabbath when someone is suffering or to relieve the person who is suffering? Surely it is the latter, because it is based upon love for a fellow man, and this is exactly what Jesus showed. The very essence of the call of God is for us to come into a relationship with him and with each other in a way that is based upon God’s love. The letter of the law though, as the Pharisees interpreted it, was not about relationships built on love but about punishment for failure.

This was not the teaching of Jesus and he showed the difference in the approach sought by God as compared to that taught by man. He said elsewhere, “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.” (Hebrews 10:5-6) It was not the letter of the law that God was interested in but in the change in the heart of a man, as instructed under the law, so that they would choose to do right. The will of God was that through the law man would learn the difference between right and wrong and use the law to build up rather than condemn. But the Pharisees used it as a means of power holding the people in subjugation through the threat of condemnation and being cast out of the synagogues. Jesus came to put this right and offer us salvation based on faith and not through works of law, for the law cannot make anyone righteous.

Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites

(Matthew 23:1-4)

The twenty-third chapter of Matthew is an indictment on the scribes and Pharisees. Many times throughout this chapter he says to them, Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” If there is anything the Lord hated more than anything else it was hypocrisy. Men are no different either. Nobody likes a hypocrite and one of the worst names a person can be called is to be called a hypocrite.

This chapter of the bible more than any other shows up the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. It is unfortunate that today we still see many of these hypocritical attributes in the modern church. There is much to learn and much to be gained by a study of this chapter.

In these first few verses Jesus tells his disciples to listen to the words of the Pharisees and scribes when they preach the law. He recognised that they were the keepers of the law and were responsible for teaching it. They had the experience and practice to do so. But Jesus also warned them that although the scribes and Pharisees had this charge, they themselves did not keep the law. Thus they were hypocrites and thus the Lord said to the disciples to listen to their words, but not to do what they did. They did not practice what they preached.

One of the great problems Jesus saw with these men was that they made life difficult for the people. They bound the people up in laws, statutes and ordinances but did not give the people relief or a way of escape. As he said, “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” (Verse 4)

They used the Law of Moses as a means of control and power. They used it to lord it over the people. But the law was given to Moses not as a burden, but to teach the people right from wrong. No man could keep the law, but through the law all men could learn the wisdom of God. All men could look into the law and understand that by keeping the law of God, man could live a better life. And God was compassionate to mankind for even within the law he made allowances for the fact that man would make mistakes. Yes there were punishments for breaking certain laws, but there were also offerings and sacrifices that could be given to atone for sins. God was not so intolerable that he did not allow for the frailty and humanity of men.

But the Pharisees did not teach the law in this way. They used it to gain advantage and influence over the people. They were overbearing and burdened the people, and as Jesus showed, would not lift a finger to lighten the burden. They were legalistic in the most negative sense of the word, and this brought only bondage and suffering. Compassion would have provided release, but these men chose to rule with an iron fist so they could retain control over the people.

We see a classic case of their legalism in the story of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus. They said to him that under law she was to be put to death, but sought what he would do to test him. Jesus showed compassion by saying, “Let him who is without sin be the first to cast a stone,” and one by one they all left from the eldest to the youngest. Jesus did not condemn the woman but showed her compassion. But there was a condition. She was to go and sin no more.

The Pharisees could have equally shown compassion to the woman, but they did not. Their immediate response was to stone her, and they were within their right to do so, but Jesus showed that through love and compassion there is a better way. We do not know the details of the case and whether this woman had been entrapped or whatever. Still the Lord gave her the benefit of the doubt on the proviso she did not continue to sin. I am sure if she were caught again the verdict would have been much different.

The hypocrisy of the Pharisees still remains in the church today. There are still those who would stone those caught in sin rather than offer compassion and release that comes through Jesus Christ. We are fortunate that Christ has provided a way to be free from sin and the law. And we will see as we go through the rest of this chapter some instances where the hypocrisy of the Pharisees remains in the church today.

The Sanctity of Marriage

(Matthew 19:1-9)

The sanctity of marriage and matters of divorce are an area over which I am still learning. There is much about this section of scripture that I do not understand. Some aspects of this scripture seem to be overly harsh, which seems at odds with other parts of the Bible. I recommend that any who have issues in this area do as I am doing. Seek God in prayer to provide you with answers. If you get an answer from the Lord, then please let me know as well so we can all learn together.

Have said that though, the following is my understand of this scripture at this point in time, but I emphasise, I am not confident that I understand this fully yet. What I am confident of though is that in the Lord’s time he will show me what I do not now know. Let us begin…
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In an age of quickie marriages and even quicker divorces, the sanctity of marriage has become a farce. People today consider marriage like a set of clothes; something you can put on for a while then take off, discard and replace with something else. This has not always been the case. It is just one of the ways that morality in these latter years is breaking down.

Jesus showed us in this scripture that the sanctity of marriage was something God takes very seriously. The Pharisees were aware of this, but they chose marriage and divorce as a means to test Jesus to try and find fault with him. But they could find no fault and he closed down their malicious argument by quoting the word of God.

When God created man and woman he created them to be joined together in marriage. They were to be partners and helpers for each other. The bond of marriage in God’s eyes was such that he said when a man and woman are joined together they become one flesh. The two become one through marriage. They are no longer individuals but are a unit; a paired set and they are to build a life together.

However the Pharisees said to Jesus that if this was so, why was there the availability of divorce under the Law of Moses? Why did Moses allow the people to divorce if they were joined together in the eyes of God, and as Jesus said, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Verse 6) And Jesus response shows the compassion of God towards man and God’s understanding of the frailty of the human condition.

Jesus responded saying, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Verse 7) God knew that man was weak. He knew that in many ways men and women could and did make bad decisions. Human passions and the desires of the flesh often led man astray to do the wrong thing and often led to sin. Knowing this, the Lord provided an opportunity to be released from a bad situation.

People sometimes get into bad marriages. They married partners who became physically or mentally abusive or caused all manner of grief through bad attitudes, bad behaviour and wrong decisions. It is not the will of God for people to be in bad situations. His offer under the law was freedom. The law provided discipline for the people and if they followed God’s law they led an exceptionally good standard of life. That being the case, would God then insist a person stay in a marriage that was personally destructive and cause grief to the partners in the marriage? If one partner was a follower of God and the other was not, should the godly person suffer at the hands of the one who was not a follower? Should they suffer especially if the other person was behaving in an unchaste manner?

No. It is not the desire of God to bring man into bondage, but through following God’s ways to lead man to freedom and a life of peace. That is why the law of divorce was provided. It provided an escape from a bad situation. It was never meant to be an easy way out for someone who in the lust of passion wanted to marry someone else if they tired of their first partner. It was meant to allow a person to escape a bad situation so that would not be further harmed, either physically, mentally or in their health and wellbeing.

To emphasise the importance with which God viewed marriage though, Jesus finished this section saying that under the law if someone divorced and married another, they were committing adultery. Or if a person married someone who had been divorced then they too were committing adultery.

The apostle Paul clarified this by saying, “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) –and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11) If a couple are divorced for any reason other than unchastity, Paul says they should be reconciled to one another, or if that is not possible they should remain single. This would be the best course of action, but is not always possible.
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As I said in the introduction, I am still questioning and asking the Lord to provide me with guidance about this matter. For I do not believe the Lord would be so strict as to prevent a person from remarrying when or if they subsequently found a partner who offered a union of joy, freedom, happiness and peace. There are things about this teaching that I admit I have no answers for, and thus I am still seeking the wisdom and insight from the Lord over this matter. Although the scripture points in one direction, the compassion and justice of the Lord suggests there is more yet to be understood here, so I await his answer.

The Parable of the Two Debtors

(Matthew 18:23-35)

The parable of the two debtors gives us an insight into the need for forgiveness. It explains why we must forgive our brother from the heart. The underlying principle shown here is to forgive as we have been forgiven.

In the parable of the two debtors we see a king settling accounts with those who owed him money. One debtor was brought to him owing ten thousand talents, and as he could not pay, the king ordered the man to be sold into slavery along with his wife, family and all his possessions.

This amount of ten thousand talents is interesting because we cannot reconcile that figure in today’s monetary terms to see how great a debt this was. The footnote to this scripture indicates that one of these talents was equivalent to fifteen years wages for a labourer. So the total sum involved was equivalent to wages for one hundred and fifty thousand years for a labourer. Bringing this into today’s terms, the average weekly earnings for a labourer in the construction industry during 2010 was a little over $1,300-00 per week. (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics – Ave Weekly Earnings, Series ID: A2734096L) So extrapolating that out we find that today the equivalent of fifteen thousand talents is $10,140,000,000! That’s $10.14 billion dollars, which in anyone’s terms is a lot of money and an awful lot of labouring. I doubt Bill Gates could pay that debt off.

Then we see the man in verse 26 say, “Lord have patience with me and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for the man the King forgave him the debt and released him.

The analogy here is that we are that debtor servant. We have this huge debt of sin in our lives before coming to Christ and we cannot repay that debt. It is highly improbable that the servant in the scripture would ever have been able to repay the King this debt. So it shows the compassion and forgiving nature of the king who rather than taking what he could, released the man, set him free and forgave this huge and monstrous debt. God has done exactly the same for us. He has released us from sin, released us from condemnation be removing us from his law, forgiven our past sins and set us free to follow his Son Jesus Christ.

Now as the parable of the two debtors continues we see this man just released comes across another man who owes him money. This second debtor owes the first debtor the sum of one hundred denarii. Now a denarius was a day’s wage for a labourer. So again converting that into today’s currency, one hundred denarii is equivalent to about $26,000-00. A fair sum, but not even the price of a new car today. It is certainly not outside the realm of being repaid in a reasonable period of time for someone on average weekly earnings.

However we see the first debtor demand payment from the second debtor say, “Pay what you owe.” The second debtor then fell down begging for patience and that he would pay it all in due course, just as the first debtor had done with the king. But the first debtor, unlike the king, did not show any compassion. Instead he had the second debtor thrown into prison until the debt was paid. This was despite the fact that the first debtor had just been forgiven an unbelievable debt by the king.

When the other servant saw what happened they told the king. The king summoned the first debtor and said, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Verse 32-33) In his anger he threw the first debtor into the prison until he should pay all of the debt, which would clearly have been a death sentence give the size of the debt.

What we learn from this is that we have been forgiven a huge debt, much greater than anything we could possibly imagine. From time to time our brothers and sisters around us will do the wrong thing by us too, which is like being owed a much smaller debt. But because we have been shown compassion by God, we too must show compassion to his people when they ask for our forgiveness and mercy. We are to forgive them from the heart as the Lord has forgiven us.

There is another interesting point in this teaching too. There is a doctrine about along the lines of “once saved, always saved.” The basis of this is that when a person is saved, regardless of what they might do wrong, other than apostasy, they are always saved. This scripture shows that doctrine to be false. The Lord is saying here that if we do not show mercy and compassion to our brethren, we will not be forgiven our debts and we will be subject to the death sentence. Once saved, always saved may provide comfort to some, but it is scripturally inaccurate, and you should not set your hopes upon such a doctrine.

Even in the Old Testament the prophets showed that it was the last state of a person that determined whether they live or die. Consider the words of Ezekiel 18:21-29, and especially verse 24. It says, “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die.”

Does this sound like a person who is once saved is always saved? No. It is repentance that is the key and if a person is unrepentant, they will surely lose their salvation. We must not be like that. We have an opportunity to come to Christ and learn his ways and receive the salvation of God. But we have a responsibility to learn and apply his teachings in our life and turn away from evil. If we deliberately turn back into sin after coming to Christ, we cannot presume that we will be saved because of past good or righteous deeds. “The soul that sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:20) Our past good deeds will not commend us to Christ if we have turned away from his righteousness.

And ultimately it is by grace we have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Anyone who turns back to sin after knowing the truth of Jesus’ way has lost their faith, fallen from grace and lost their salvation. The doctrine of once saved, always saved is a false doctrine.

Forgiving Your Brother

(Matthew 18:21-22)

The power of forgiveness is an incredible thing. Jesus teaches us here that forgiving your brother in Christ is an important part of the Christian teaching. Forgiving your brother should be unlimited, which is the point Jesus is making in this section.

However when we look at the Luke version of this scripture we see that this is a conditional forgiveness. Forgiving your brother is not automatic but follows a process. The Luke version of this uses the words of Jesus rather than the words of Peter and says, “Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4) So we see here that forgiving your brother is based upon their repenting of their sin.

The process follows this path. The first step is if your brother sins rebuke him. Tell him his fault and how he has wronged you. It would be remiss not to do so for how would your brother learn? Then if he repents of the sin or the wrong he has done, forgive him. We are not meant to hold grudges for grudges lead to bitterness and bitterness to division among brethren. No, instead forgive him wholeheartedly and welcome him back as a brother.

Now this forgiveness is unlimited. The point Jesus was making was that there are no limits to how many times we should forgive our brethren, on the condition that they repent. As he said, “I do not say to you seven times (in a day) but seventy times seven.” (Verse 22) Now it is highly unlikely that your brother may sin against you seventy times seven, that is, four hundred and ninety times in a day. But if he does and turns and repents, we must forgive them. And if he does it all again tomorrow and turns and repents, again we must forgive them.

We do not know what may be driving our brethren to act in this way. The Lord may be dealing with far worse things than the issue that we are seeing in that person. Our responsibility is to provide a caring environment to help them while they work things out with the Lord. And caring for your brethren also means helping them to see when they have done the wrong thing so that they can learn and put the matter before the Lord in prayer for a resolution. The resolution though may not be instant, and thus the need for forgiveness when they repent.

Finally we need to understand that we too need repentance from time to time. We came to the Lord as sinners and needed forgiveness and release from our sins, and we have all sinned far more against the Lord than we have one another. Yet he has forgiven all of those sins of ours and comforted us with his love and grace, bringing us into the presence of God. If then he did such a great thing for us, then we must likewise do the same for our brethren. If they sin, rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them. Then we can truly become like sons of the Father, as Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Jesus Feeds the Crowd

(Matthew 15:29-39)

Jesus feeds the crowd again in this section. This is the second miracle where Jesus feeds the crowd with just a few loaves and fishes.

The details of this miracle are similar to when Jesus feeds the crowd of five thousand. In this case we see there are four thousand men plus women and children, so it is a substantial crowd following him. Apart from the miracle itself, the lesson to be learned is strengthened by him doing this miracle twice. So what are the lessons to be taken from this?

1. The hand of the Lord is not shortened. He is able to provide for his people even being able to create food from nothing.
2. He is compassionate to his people. They had been following him for three days and he did not want to send them away hungry.
3. He shows we are to provide both spiritual food and physical food when the need is there.
4. It is hypocritical to say when someone is in need of food or clothing to, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body,” (James 2:16) That is, our faith is completed by our deeds and actions.

Now even today when Jesus is not walking the earth as he did two thousand odd years ago, we still see his miraculous power at work. His people who follow him are constantly watched over and guarded and do not suffer want. Testimonies abound of how people have sought the Lord for many things and received his blessing, sometimes in miraculous ways. As examples, here are a few instances from my own life and experience of the Lord’s provision and protection.

In all things we can come to him. There is no matter too great or too small that he cannot resolve. We need to firstly have the faith to bring our needs and concerns to him and then give him praise and glory to God when the prayers are answered. We also need to understand that sometimes the answer will be “No.” It is just like when our own children come to us for things that we know from experience is not good or right for them.

So if Jesus can feed the crowd on just a few loaves and fishes, he can do just about anything we may ask. The key is to ask and to believe that you will receive an answer.

Crumbs from the Master’s Table – The Canaanite Woman’s Faith

(Matthew 15:21-28)

The teaching about the Canaanite woman’s faith, sometimes referred to as feeding on crumbs from the master’s table, is an unusual one. Some people argue that the Lord was being cold or unkind in his treatment of the Canaanite woman in this teaching. However that is not the case.

This woman was following Jesus and the disciples crying after them to seek healing for her daughter who was demon possessed. She clearly knew the Lord could do this for no doubt she had seen or heard about the healings he had already performed. It also appears that her constant crying to the Lord was annoying the disciples, for they said to Jesus to send her away. But Jesus didn’t send her packing, which in itself is a sign that he had compassion for her even before he did anything.

Jesus made the reply to the disciples when they said to send her away that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The Canaanite woman was a Gentile and not of the tribes of Israel. Now some could argue there was inconsistency here. Jesus did not immediately grant her request, but we saw back in Matthew 8:5-12 that he did immediately assist the Gentile centurion, who came to him pleading for the healing of his servant. However in that case we can presume that the centurion’s servant may have been of the tribes of Israel and thus one of the lost sheep to whom Jesus referred.

In this case though the woman was pleading for her daughter who clearly would not have been an Israelite. She was not prepared to accept no for an answer either, which is a lesson we can all learn. For when she made her request Jesus responded, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Verse 26) Most people would have given up at that point, but this Canaanite woman was not any ordinary person. She responded back saying, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Verse 27) Jesus recognised she had great faith and so granted her request. The crumbs from the masters table she referred to are evidence that she had been seeking the Lord and taking in the teachings. The Canaanite woman’s faith was strong, as she had clearly learned the principles of faith from listening to Jesus and taking in the good news of the gospel.

Although the initial ministry of Jesus was to the Israelites, it was prophesied by Isaiah that, “The root of Jesse shall come, he who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope.” (Romans 15:12) So there was no reason that Jesus should withhold healing other than that it was not time yet to reach out to the Gentiles. The ministry had to go to Israel first and spread from there.

There is a warning in here about being legalistic. Legalism is rigid and unbending. It says, “The law is the law and it cannot be changed.” But Jesus came to preach freedom from law, and although he was born under law, in his subsequent death he would remove all sin and the law so that we could be freed. The ministry of freedom too is a ministry of compassion, not rigid but open to reason and doing what is good and right and true.

The Canaanite woman’s faith was such that she deserved this healing she sought. We know that it is the children of faith who are children of Abraham, and thus children of Israel. For Paul wrote, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants.” (Romans 9:6-8) Through their faith in God the Gentiles are reckoned as descendants of Abraham.

They are children of promise through faith and are children of God through faith in the promises of God. As Paul also wrote, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.” (Romans 3:28-30) The uncircumcised are the Gentile nations and these are made righteous or justified through their faith. Thus we see the Canaanite woman receive her request because of her faith and through her faith became a descendant of Israel in a spiritual sense and thus one of the lost sheep of Israel.

So Jesus was not being cold or inconsistent. Since she was a descendant of Abraham through faith in the promises of God, she was entitled to the healing she sought. She proved herself to be a child of Abraham and a child of God through her faith.

You might also like:

Sheep Without A Shepherd
Jesus Feeds The Crowd
Forgiving Your Brother
The Parable Of The Two Debtors
Healing On The Sabbath
Crumbs From The Masters Table
The Woman Who Was A Sinner
The Woman Caught In Adultery Part 2
The Joy Of Jesus
Unlocking The Promises Of God To The Gentiles
Rise Peter Kill And Eat
Peter First Speaks To The Gentiles
Gentiles Reconciled
Opening Up Gods Mercy
Stumbling Forward
Hope For All

Fishes and Loaves Bible Story

(Matthew 14:13-21)

The fishes and loaves bible story is one that is commonly heard in the world today. Quite often the fishes and loaves bible story is cited when people have somehow fed a large number of people as Jesus fed the multitudes in this section of Matthew, or when people have sufficient food to feed the five thousand. But there are deeper meanings to the fishes and loaves bible story that show other aspects of Jesus ministry.

Jesus had gone to a remote place after the beheading of John the Baptist, but the crowds heard of it and followed him. Out of compassion for the people he healed their sick and he taught them about the gospel and the Kingdom of God well into the evening.

The disciples were trying to be considerate of the people by saying to Jesus to send the people away into the villages so they could buy food to eat. They were aware that the people had been there all day and needed food. But Jesus said to the disciples that they need not go away but for the disciples to give them food. The disciples responded saying they had only five loaves and two fish, which they brought to Jesus. Jesus took the fishes and the loaves and looking up to heaven he blessed and broke them and they were distributed among the people. When the five thousand men, plus many women and children, had all eaten and were satisfied, there were twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.

This was a remarkable miracle performed that day. In this fishes and loaves bible story what actually happened was that Jesus created matter in the form of the fishes and loaves. He literally created this food from thin air, something created from nothing. You can almost imagine that as he broke a piece of bread or fish off the main lump, it grew back or reappeared so that he could break it off again, multiplying the food to feed the five thousand plus people there. We have seen through the ages people searching for a way to create or transform matter. Alchemists in the dark ages tried to turn lead into gold. Today scientists have just discovered how to clone cells to grow tissue. But Jesus did not clone the food; it was created from nothing instantaneously.

But why did he do this? It was to show several things to the disciples and the people. First, they had no need to worry about the resources available to the Lord. He knows that we need to eat and have food, and he is able to provide food from nothing. We see this same principle in the Old Testament when Elijah was brought food morning and evening by the ravens. (1 Kings 17:6) also when Elijah went and stayed with the widow from Zar’ephath the Lord refilled her jars of meal and oil for many days, perhaps several years, during the famine of the time while the Lord withheld the rains. Again in this situation, the Lord created food from nothing. (1 Kings 17:8-16)

But the fishes and loaves bible story shows us also that he feeds us the spiritual food. Jesus had been teaching the people all day giving them the spiritual food that would lead to life. And in compassion he showed that you need both and he provided both. This was a lesson to the disciples. They would have sent the people away, but Jesus showed that if you give only the spiritual food when there is also a need for physical food, they needed to give both. You cannot expect people to accept the spiritual matters while there is a concern for physical well-being. James also showed the pointlessness of saying, “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16) Part of the compassion and caring of the New Covenant is in ensuring that the people of God have what is needed for the spirit as well as the body.

However Jesus also taught in another version that the people had been more focussed on then physical food then the spiritual food. Although they needed to eat, they needed to learn more. Jesus said, “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” (John 6:26-27) So likewise we must not spend our energy labouring for the things of this world, but rather we need to study and learn the things of the spirit that will lead us to life with Christ.

So the Lord will provide our physical needs and if we trust in him we have no need to be worried. We can take comfort from this knowledge knowing that in the fishes and loaves bible story there is evidence of the providence of the Lord.

Sheep Without a Shepherd

(Matthew 9:27-38)

In the previous post we saw Jesus showing that faith was a key requirement for the people to receive healing. On several occasions he made the point that the healings they received was done according to their faith. We see now in this section that as Jesus continued his work he began to get opposition from the Pharisees and he made the point that the people were not being cared for as they were like sheep without a shepherd.

In the first section of this scripture (verses 27-31) we again see the position taken by Jesus that faith is a key to healing. Two blind men came crying aloud after him saying, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When Jesus went into the house where he was staying he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” to which the men answered, “Yes, Lord.” Jesus then touched their eyes and they received their sight.

Now the key in this section is that the men first confessed their faith and that they had the faith to be made well. It was evident they knew who Jesus was for they referred to him as the Son of David. They had no doubt heard of the miracles he had previously done, and so believed that Jesus was able to heal them of their blindness.

Jesus was not looking for glory from all the healings he was doing. He was not seeking fame or self-glorification or the praise of men, for after doing this healing he charged the men sternly to tell no-one. Jesus did this a number of times, but it was impossible to hide these wondrous things. For when these men went back to their homes and families and could now see, the people would immediately ask and wonder how such a miraculous thing could occur. And in this case the men went away and spread his fame throughout all the district. Jesus on other occasions instead said for the people to give the glory to God and that si what we should do too when we receive his gifts today.

There is a twist too that we see in the next part of this scripture. A dumb demoniac was brought to him and Jesus cast out the dumb demon and the man spoke. The people marvelled at such a thing having never seen anything like it before. But what we see also is that the Pharisees become jealous of his growing fame and reputation and they begin to stand against and accuse him. What they do not realise is that they commit the unpardonable sin in their comments saying, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” The one sin that will not be forgiven is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit as Jesus showed in Matthew 12:31-32. What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? In this case it is calling the wondrous works of the Holy Spirit or attributing the work of the Spirit to the devil. These Pharisees were saying is that Jesus was casting out demons, not by the power of the Holy Spirit but by the power of Satan…and this is blasphemy. In Matthew 12 this topic will be covered in more depth for the scriptures there are more revealing and we can begin to understand why this is the unforgivable sin.

In the final paragraph of this text we see Jesus moving about the villages amongst the people, preaching and teaching the word of God and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The truth and the power of his words were confirmed by the signs attending him as he healed all sicknesses, diseases and infirmities. Matthew wrote that Jesus had great compassion for the people for they were like sheep without a shepherd and he said to his disciples to pray that the Lord would send out people to minister to the people.

Is this any different today? There is today still a great need for the Lord to send out ministers to preach and teach the truth of the gospel. There have been many people today hurt by the church and those who should have been helping and protecting the flock, but instead used then for their own gain. There are preachers today who distort the words of God and the Bible to justify their own ends and to seek advantage over others. This should not be so and the Lord will judge those people accordingly. Are all the teachers and preachers today like that? No they are not, but it is often difficult to tell the good from the bad. For as the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

If Satan disguises himself to look good, so do his people. Jesus said you would know them by their fruits and so it is important not to blindly accept what anyone says purely at face value. We must study and learn the words of God in the Bible and ask for the Holy Spirit to come to us and teach us so that we can discern truth from error and see deceitful men for what they are. If we come to the Lord in humility and ask him to lead us, he will do so and will expose impostors and take us to where his people can be nurtured in the truth. As Jesus promised, “Seek and you WILL find.”